John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Institutions of Excellence in the First College Year

In 2002, the Policy Center on the First Year of College undertook a national study to identify and describe, through in-depth case studies, a variety of “Institutions of Excellence in the First College Year.” These case studies were published by Jossey-Bass in 2005 book entitled Achieving and Sustaining Institutional Excellence for the First Year of College.

The Policy Center issued a national call for nominations for Institutions of Excellence in early 2002. Colleges and universities were invited to self-nominate by submitting short narrative descriptions of their first-year initiatives. From the 130 nominations received, an initial group of 54 semifinalists were selected.

Following additional review of institutional materials, 13 campuses representing all sectors of American higher education were chosen from the 54 semi-finalists as Institutions of Excellence—campuses exemplifying best practice in the first year according to the following five criteria:

  • Evidence of an intentional, comprehensive approach to the first year that is appropriate to the institutions type
  • Evidence of assessment of the various initiatives that constitute this approach
  • Evidence of broad impact on significant numbers of first-year students, including, but not limited to, special student sub-populations
  • Strong administrative support for first-year initiatives, evidence of institutionalization, and durability over time
  • Involvement of a wide range of faculty, student affairs professionals, academic administrators, and other constituent groups

Click on the institutions’ names as listed below to view the two-page narrative submitted by each Institution of Excellence describing its first-year programs and first-year assessment.

Narrative Descriptions (Please note: Institutional size designation includes both undergraduate and graduate students.)

Community Colleges

Four-Year Colleges and UniversitiesUnder 2,000

Four-Year Colleges and Universities – 2,000 – 5,000

Four-Year Colleges and Universities5,000 – 10,000

Four-Year Universities10,000 – 20,000

Four-Year UniversitiesOver 20,000